“It’s hard for most people to understand that we Muslims don’t fit into boxes,” writes Yousra Fazili in Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, an anthology of essays by American Muslim women. Fazili’s statement is emblematic of many women here who “don’t remember a time when they weren’t both American and Muslim.”
Many Americans still think of Islam in monolithic terms, and link it indelibly to the Arab world, fundamentalism, and, most frequently, the repression of women. But as these writers demonstrate, the tapestry of Islam is much more diverse. About 80 percent of Muslims live outside the Arab world, including a small percentage in the United States—about 7 million. For those Muslims, there is often tension between American culture and Muslim religion.
Living Islam Out Loud gives extraordinary insight into what it means to be female, Muslim, and American. The voices here help break down the false barriers of American vs. Muslim while also demonstrating women’s empowerment. Themes about negotiating culture, romantic relationships, and faith and spiritual journeys often intersect in the 18 short essays that comprise the book.
The majority of writers come from families that immigrated to the United States from the Middle East and Asia, but the book also includes two essays by African-American Muslim women—voices that are often forgotten in discussions of Islam. Precious Rasheeda Muhammad and Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard describe a distinctly American Islam that has been part of U.S. history for hundreds of years, since its beginnings with African slavery.